Cast & Crew
E. J. Peaker
Episodic story in six acts ("The Manly Art in Six Rounds") about young boxer Vic Bealer (played by Jon Voight) in search for some direction in his life.
E. J. Peaker
Jaye P Morgan
The All-American Boy -
Many young directors and writers of the era, including Eastman, sought a realist style that avoided the tightly structured linear narratives and archetypal characters of old-school Hollywood. These filmmakers preferred episodic stories consisting of vignettes driven by character interaction. A divisive time in American history, the 1960s-1970s were defined by the counterculture, who repeatedly expressed their disappointment, disillusionment and even anger at the previous generation for their complacency in the decline and decay of society. "Alienation" was the word used most often to describe the rupture between generations, social classes and even family members.
Though dubbed the Film School Generation, not all of these directors and writers attended colleges with film programs, but most reflected their generation's dissatisfaction with politics and society in their stories and character preferences. Protagonists tended to be misfits, outsiders or disaffected drop-outs who never knew or wanted the peace and security of a normal life in mainstream society. They were destined to lose, particularly at love and financial success--the two barometers of happiness in Hollywood movies. While some of these protagonists were admirable for refusing to participate in the corruption and greed of modern society, others were unsympathetic or unlikable. In films like Midnight Cowboy (1969), Five Easy Pieces (1970) and Taxi Driver (1976), Film School Generation directors pushed the limits of the audience's willingness to sympathize and identify with their protagonists.
Central to this group of filmmakers was the use of authentic locations. Films were shot in the decaying neighborhoods of inner cities or in regions of America generally ignored by Hollywood. The cinematography lingered on long shots of stunning locations or included documentary-like shots of local residents going about their daily lives.
The All-American Boy, which is virtually unknown to movie lovers and scholars, follows most of the characteristics of the Film School Generation. Jon Voight stars as the title character, a would-be boxer named Vic Bealer who returns to his small hometown to attend a family funeral. Vic despises the limitations of the small-town lifestyle and resents his family. He begins an affair with a perky local girl named Janelle (E.J. Peaker), and he strikes a deal with former boxing manager Arty Bale (Ned Glass) to train for a slot in the Olympics. Unwilling to shoulder responsibility for any of his actions, Vic manages to let both of them down. After Janelle moves to Los Angeles to have Vic's baby and pursue a singing career, he takes up with young, clueless Drenna Valentine (Anne Archer). He also accepts another offer to manage his floundering boxing career. However, his fear of owing something to someone and his inability to hold up his part of a bargain infringes on his sense of "freedom," which negatively impacts anyone in his personal orbit.
Vic Bealer is the quintessential Film School Generation protagonist. As an alienated drifter dissatisfied with mainstream society, he is wary of the ties that bind, whether they be personal or professional. Vic's home-town in rural California is confining in its lack of opportunity, while the routine lives of its residents seem trivial. Vic's feelings of entrapment are visually reinforced in a scene in which he rails at Janelle about his hatred for the town. In a long shot, the pair walk across a field into the distance, but their forward motion is halted by a fence. The visual rendering of Vic and Janelle's situation by director of photography Philip H. Lathrop is as poignant as it is beautiful--an example of the film's richly textured cinematography.
While this criticism of small town life is not unfounded, especially in this era, Vic lacks the gumption and independence to leave, suggesting he is weak-willed. Plus, his harsh treatment of those who put their faith in him make him unsympathetic. Playing against his blonde, blue-eyed good looks, Voight's momentum after his Oscar-nominated role in Midnight Cowboy led to this performance as another alienated loser living on the margins of society. According to director John Boorman, who had begun pestering Voight to make Deliverance (1972) at this time, the actor was incredibly depressed about The All-American Boy, because he felt that he and Eastman had not adequately captured such a difficult character. Boorman claimed that Voight threatened to give up on acting.
The All-American Boy proved to be Eastman's only film as a director, and its journey to the big screen was a rocky one. Shot in 1970, the film spent almost two years in the editing process. The executives at Warner Bros. kicked Eastman out of the editing room before releasing a version in 1972 that failed miserably with preview audiences. Hoping for some return on its investment, the studio gave the director a chance to restore his cut. After another year of squabbling, Warner Bros. released Eastman's version, more or less, in October 1973 after the Directors Guild backed his efforts to secure his cut.
Quirky misfits, alienated loners, and hapless wanderers were Charles Eastman's forte as a writer. He was the brother of Carole Eastman, who wrote the script forFive Easy Pieces in which Ralph Waite's character was based on Charles, though others claim he may have inspired the protagonist, played by Jack Nicholson. Keeping it in the family, the character of Vic Bealer was supposedly based on Charles's brother David, according to Sight & Sound magazine. Born in Hollywood, Charles hailed from a working-class family employed in the film industry. He began his career as a playwright, finding some success with Los Angeles theater groups during the 1960s. He earned a living as a script doctor, working without credit on such films as The Cincinnati Kid (1965) and This Property Is Condemned (1966). He also worked in the script departments for CBS and NBC. His greatest success was arguably the screenplay for Little Fauss and Big Halsy (1970), another story of displaced characters unable to survive in the mainstream world.
Unfortunately, The All-American Boy was a financial failure and quickly forgotten. Though flawed, with an unsympathetic protagonist too unclear to pin down, the film does reflect a unique voice from a turbulent time.
By Susan Doll
Producer: Joseph T. Naar and Saul Krugman
Director: Charles Eastman
Screenplay: Charles Eastman
Cinematography: Philip H. Lathrop
Editors: Christopher Holmes, William Neel, Ralph Winters
Assistant Editor: Joel Cox
Art Direction: Cary Odell
Makeup: Gordon Bau
Cast: Vic Bealer (Jon Voight), Janelle Sharkey (E.J. Peaker), Ariel Van Daumee (Bob Hastings), Arty Bale (Ned Glass), Rodine Bealer (Carole Androsky), Drenna Valentine (Anne Archer), Rockoff (Gene Borkan), Larking (Ron Burns), Poppy (Rosalind Cash), Nola Bealer (Jeanne Cooper), Connie Swooze (Nancie Phillips), Jay David Swooze (Art Metrano), Parker (Harry Northrop), Lovette (Leigh French), Magda Valentine (Jaye P. Morgan)
The All-American Boy -
Released in United States 1973
Released in United States 1973